Monday, September 9, 2013

Pope pressured to stop money laundering in the Vatican bank: Too little, too late

After many years of vatican bank money laundering, no financial transparency, disappearance of money, denials of blame, bank collapse, Mafia dealings and murder the new pope francis – under  a “recommendation” from the European anti-money laundering committee Moneyval  -- created a commission to look into the bank’s dealings.

Experts on money-laundering predicted that the Moneyval report would contain serious misgivings about whether the bank did anything to end “its reputation as a channel for Mafia profits of crime, arms deals and even the financing of terrorism.”  Moneyval said in a July 2012 report that the vatican still had a way to go.

For the past three years the previous pope tried to clean up bank dealings after evidence showed that the previous head of the bank, monsignor Angelo Caloia had expanded money laundering and was keeping secret accounts for favored politicians since the 1970s and 1980s.

Can the vatican really police itself? Look at their track record: 

1942: Vatican bank set up to finance works of charity worldwide. From the start activities of the bank were controversial and there were allegations of questionable movements of money and gold during and after the Second World War. 

1969: The vatican bank’s criminal business took off when lawyer, banker and Mafia don Michele “The Shark” Sindona was given the job of running it by his old friend pope Paul VI. Sindona used the bank to launder the Gambino Mafia family’s heroin profits. By the late 1970s Sindona and his bank were being investigated by Italian judges, prosecutors and politicians, several of whom were murdered. In 1986 Sindona, serving a 25-year sentence for murder, was poisoned in his cell by cyanide in his coffee.

 2010:  Italian investigators froze US$33 million in funds that the vatican bank put in an Italian bank because of suspicion of money laundering and less than legitimate vatican financial practices. The vatican bankers were “unable to respond” to a series of requests about questionable money transfers of $1.5 billion from the account in a short period of time. The money freeze was lifted in June 2011 but the investigation continued.  JP Morgan became nervous after Italian investigators found the account in a Milan bank and began to question vatican officials. Not getting good answers, it then closed the Milan account, saying anti-money laundering regulations did not permit its continued operation.

2012 (March 8, Philip Pullella, Reuters) reported that the U.S. State Department added the vatican to its list of money-laundering centers because of the large amount of international currency handled by a very secretive vatican.

Still At It

June 2013: The new pope has incentive to do something since there is a new money-laundering case: a Holy See monsignor Nunzio Scarano, withdrew more than a half-million euros in charitable donations (yes, yours!) from the bank and then used the money to pay off his personal mortgage. Also, Italian prosecutors are investigating two former vatican bank top executives on suspicion of repeatedly breaking Italian money laundering laws.

The vatican doesn’t want transparent financial records; they want to keep secret the bank’s 35,000 accounts, $7.5 billion in assets and the $55 million a year that the banking business produces for the church. These figures may just be the tip of the iceberg because no one really knows the total wealth of the church.

Does an organization like this care about the poor, abused and abandoned of the world? Do they use the contributions from millions of Catholics to help people – or to fatten their wallets? In the daily news the new pope has lots of distractions for the faithful while he slams the door on auditors who want to see what he is really doing with our money – just like he slams the door on survivors of nun and clergy abuse. The pope has time to meet with and tweet with everyone else except those who suffered the most.